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Marine clearedin mosqueshootings probe

The U.S. military has cleared a Marine who shot three unarmed insurgents in a mosque at the height of fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, in November, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

A Marine corporal who was videotaped shooting an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque last year will not face court-martial, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.

Marine commander Lt. Gen. John Sattler has ruled the soldier involved fired his weapon in self-defense, and no charges will be filed against him, NBC News learned Wednesday.

Later Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, said that a review of the evidence showed the Marine’s actions in the shooting were “consistent with the established rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict.”

The shootings occurred at a mosque during an intense street-to-street battle for Fallujah. Caught on tape by an NBC camera, a squad of Marines entered the mosque to investigate reports of enemy gunfire. Inside, they found four enemy insurgents, wounded in a firefight the day before.

A Marine corporal who noticed that one of the insurgents was still breathing raised his rifle and fired a single shot into the man’s head.

Military officials now report that the same corporal shot three of the unarmed insurgents inside the mosque.

Five-month inquiry
But after an exhaustive five-month investigation, Sattler ruled the Marine had fired his weapon in self-defense.

Sources tell NBC News the decision was based on the fact the Marines had been warned that the enemy would feign death and booby-trap bodies as a tactic to lure Marines to their deaths. The sources said the corporal apparently feared for his life when he fired the shots.

But the investigation is not over. At least one other Marine remains under investigation for shooting the fourth unarmed insurgent in that same mosque.

The mosque had been used as a safe haven for insurgents firing on Marines, and the U.S. military found a large stockpile of weapons inside upon securing the building.

Before the opening of the Nov. 8 assault on rebel-held Fallujah, Marine commanders told infantrymen that the rules of engagement allowed for use of deadly force against men of military age deemed holding hostile intent, even if the enemy didn’t fire on the Marines first, the AP reported.